My Turn: Entry fee at Horseshoe Bend makes sense

© 2017-Lake Powell Chronicle

City, park service right to consider cost to taxpayers

For more than a year I have questioned why the city of Page has insisted on maintaining ownership of the parking lot area at Horseshoe Bend.
I even wrote a column suggesting the city donate the property to the National Park Service. My thoughts on the topic were pretty simple.
First, the park service does an excellent job around the nation maintaining and protecting some of the most beautiful locations in the world. It’s what they do and they are quite good at it. And the park service already owns the overlook at Horseshoe Bend, clearly the most important part.
Second, keeping ownership in the area is costly with no obvious benefit. I’m a fan of spending tax money on quality of life issues. Parks are a great expense although they never can and never will pay for themselves. But owning a parking lot at a tourist destination? That just never made sense.
The official word from some elected officials was the city wanted to maintain ownership to have a greater say in what happens at Horseshoe Bend. OK. But is that really wise when you are paying for installing and maintaining bathrooms? Plus, if you trust the park service, there’s no need to worry.
But now it all makes sense. As most of you probably read last week, the city council and members of the park service have been discussing ways to monetize Horseshoe Bend. With crowds visiting the sight growing from thousands to millions each year, there is now talk about putting up an entry gate and charging those who want to see the scenic overlook.
My guess is this has been a thought for quite a while, even if it is just now being made public. For the record, there have been no decisions made, no formal ideas proposed and it will probably be quite a while before any formal change is made at Horseshoe Bend. But my guess is some day, free trips to the sight will end, which makes the city’s patience and determination worthwhile. As a side note, any one with a national parks pass or a Glen Canyon pass would not have to pay the fee.
When we posted the story about the discussion on Facebook, it went wild. Within days it was the most-viewed story I’ve posted. It had more comments and more interactions than any thing we’ve ever put on Facebook.
The comments were kind of broken into three categories. There were quite a few people who loved the idea of charging an entry fee. There were even more who felt it was a sign of greed by the city and the park service. And the third group were those who felt local residents, especially Navajo residents, should be able to continue to get in free.
I have spent several days thinking about this, and I kind of like the idea of charging. The $10, two-day pass that was proposed will likely be very popular, both with tourists and local residents. And frankly if the city and the park service are going to invest millions in taxpayer dollars into Horseshoe Bend, there should be a way to get some of that money back.
My guess is entry fees will never turn a profit, but recouping some of the costs is always beneficial. I reserve the right to change my mind until I see a formal proposal, but in general I think the idea is pretty good.

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